A Question Of Writing And Visual Art

Yesterday, we went to hang a painting — a painting of the house in which I grew up, a painting by my Aunt Dottie — above our fireplace. We needed a new frame, however, so we went out and bought one.

(Her watercolor in question:)

USE_homestead

Ahh, but when we took the painting out, we found another painting of hers on the back. And, we found someone else’s painting on the — forgive me, I’m a bit of an art-tard, backing? Matting? Art Bolsterfication Layer? Apologies, I go feeling around for terminology and I find only vacant space and howling winds.

Anyway.

The painting painted upon that sub-stratum of the frame is this one here (**FYI: removed some text of this post as it was offensive — apologies for any offense caused**).

discovered art

Heck, for all I know my aunt painted that. I don’t suspect it to be so, as I’ve lived with her art for most of my life and find it nothing like this — Aunt Dottie’s paintings always possess what I’m now at this very moment calling “country ethereal,” that feeling that you are both looking at something real and something out of a dream (which I find to be one of the strengths of watercolor, but again, what do I know)?

It’s possible, looking at the painting again, that the individual is sitting in a chair, yes. But it’s also possible that the thing in his/her right hand is a sawed-off shotgun. Which takes this painting to a whole other level, you ask me. Plus, that teal burst of color over the individual’s left shoulder could be a wing. But — where’s the other wing? Clearly broken. So now this becomes “Angel Fallen To Earth (With Sawed-Off Shotgun) In Repose Or Some Shit.” Great stuff, and suddenly I’m getting a story in my head about who this poor weird angel happens to be.

Who is this angel?

Why the shotgun?

Who is painting her/him?

Anyway.

I realize I’m rambling, but fuck it, it’s a Saturday post, and nobody looks at those anyway. My point is, I think I should maybe rely more on the visual arts to offer inspiration. Much as it’s difficult for me to take inspiration for music, it’s quite the opposite when looking at a photograph, a painting, a sculpture, an installation of some ilk. Hell, I look at my Chicken Plus Tractor photo –

American Gothic II: Diesel Boogaloo

From it came this short story: “Lethe And Mnemosyne.”

And then I look at the art on our walls — Erte prints (one of which inspired the Qedeshah in Vampire: The Requiem), or goofy pop culture art by someone like Brandon Bird (we own several, such as “No One Wants To Play Sega With Harrison Ford,” or “Elysium“). I look all the art deco peppered around the house on shelves and counters. Plus: photos. I take shit-tons of photos. Thousands in a month.

Then I look to the work of friends, friends like Andrew Conti or Steven Belledin (both of whom comment here, and the latter of whom you possibly recognize for all his kick-ass genre work).

And then I think back to Aunt Dottie, whose own work inspired me very early, and who herself inspired me to be an artist of some ilk.

And I’m like, damn. I need to pay better attention to this stuff. It’s a gold mine of brain activity. It is a buzzing hive of inspirado.

You want to know where the Muse lurks? You can go hunt her ass down and make her wiggle.

So, once again I look to you. The Masses Wiser Than I, the Aggregate Awesome of the Terribleminds Experience. (All these are band names and album names, by the way. Feel free to partake.)

What art is on your walls? Or on your shelves?

Further, as artists and storytellers, what inspires you visually?

What artists do you like, love, follow, hate?

Links, too, if you got ‘em. Spread it all around.

11 comments

  • I really enjoyed this piece! I love hearing stories about paintings and their quirky histories – especially paintings on top of other paintings. How cool is that! My grandpa was an artist who specialized in calligraphy and wood carving. I have some of his painted wood reliefs hanging in the kitchen – scenes from Minnesota life back in the fifties. It always makes me feel happy to look at those and think of him whittling or inking something, holding his breath while he worked. My little brother is an artist too and he mainly makes linocuts and etchings. I have loads of those, going back to when we were kids, because he always makes me a new one – usually some crazy monster that looks like it’s etched in blood – for Christmas or my birthday. I paint in oil and watercolour, but do less of it now that I write more seriously.

    I agree with you that paintings are a good source of inspiration for writing. I write gothic crime fiction and fairly gothic poetry, so the art I look tends to be…Gothic! I’m a big fan of folk art, outsider art, assemblage and old photography, such as Bellocq’s portraits of prostitutes in New Orleans – the ones he hid in his sofa all those years – or the spooky post-mortem photography included in Michael Lesy’s Wisconsin Death Trip http://amzn.to/9zAo7X. In terms of painting, my absolute favourites are Goya’s Black Paintings http://eeweems.com/goya/black_paintings.html done directly on the walls of his house when he was a shut-in, stone deaf, half blind and nutty as a fruit bat, painting in those colours because he couldn’t see the full range. I also look at Fuseli to get me in the right frame of mind, especially The Nightmare! http://bit.ly/7dwpsP

  • Tranny is an incredibly derogatory word dude. Speaking as a transgendered person, it’s about as offensive as it comes. Without co-opting the experience, I imagine it’s as distasteful as spic or nigger might be to their respective targets. It’s not cool or edgy. In fact, it’s specifically the word I’ve heard used while was being assaulted. I thought you were better than this Chuck.

    • Tinc:

      Apologies — changed the post to be (ideally) less offensive. Had no idea “tranny” was offensive. Reveals my ignorance about terminology like that. I had thought the term was relatively safe (I knew a transgendered person who used the term somewhat freely), which again, is my bad.

      Heart of the post remains the same.

      — c.

  • I’m sad that I can’t see the discovered painting (seriously, Flickr just put up some “photo not available” BS). It sounds awesome. Fix it.

    I’m also sad to say that I’m not really all that inspired by visual art. It might a byproduct of being mostly blind and knowing that someday I’ll likely be entirely blind. Or that it just doesn’t sing to me. The most I get is a character idea from an awesome photo of a person. My “muse” likes to hide in music, specifically lyrics and voice. So I doubt I’ll be much help at all.

    As far as art in my home goes – since I’m a good girl and I like to participate to the fullest – it varies by room. Living area and hall have pin-ups a la Gil Elvgren hanging out with wedding pictures and the like. Dining room is old beer signs. Office has Japanese prints (landscapes, ladies – all very gorgeous). Bedroom has a middle eastern thing going with a huge craved relief of a tree and a prayer rug I saved from some guy’s yard sale. I think the bathroom is as artsy as we get with homemade paintings that, I admit, aren’t very good.

    I should send Rory along to comment. He’s much more into visual arts than I am. I’m sure he’ll provide something awesome, or at least thoughtful.

  • I dig old travel posters. Cunard Line, the old Pan Am stuff (like this one. When the airplane seats were wicker, first class meant a three room suite on the Queen Mary and travel was ADVENTUUUUURE! I’ve got a couple in my office along with some of my own b&w photography. Because I’m a narcisist like that.

    I don’t usually get much inspiration from art. Not that it doesn’t make me think of anything, but if something strikes me enough to really take notice I’m usually overwhelmed by the skill of the artist or the image itself and I don’t want to take anything away from it.

    That probably sounded way more pretentious than I intended. Like I could possibly take something away from someone else’s art.

    Objects, though, that’s different. I have an Ihagee camera (Not exactly this one, but close) from the thirties, a Kodak Brownie, a Royal typewriter (with a plush Cthulhu atop it and an action figure of Freud wrapped in Tibetan skull prayer beads perched on the platen – how’s THAT for digging into the subconscious).

    One that’s always stuck with me was a bolt of purpled, watered silk that my grandmother kept in a teak chest. The way the light would catch the patterns in it, or the fabric would feel in my hands. She got it when she was a kid in Hawaii. Went down to the docks in Honolulu, probably around 1915 with her mom and they bought it straight off the clipper from China.

    I think it’s the tangibility (Is that a word? Oh, hey, it is) of an object that I get inspiration in. The thing itself, how it looks and feels, the history behind it.

    Okay, I’m done. I’ve used up my pretentious artiste quota for the weekend.

  • What art is on your walls? Or on your shelves?
    I think Kate covered it pretty well. We’ve got Gil Elvgren, Hiroshige, and some great relief carvings. A lot territory is being covered. My office at work has a lot of the cast-offs from my old bachelor pad including a great early 20th century Miller High Life ad. I like my art distinctive and bold.

    Further, as artists and storytellers, what inspires you visually?
    Dynamic movement. Bold lines. Saturated colors. I really love old propaganda posters.

    What artists do you like, love, follow, hate?
    My favorite artists:
    The Brute
    Jack Kirby
    Rene Magritte
    Salvador Dali
    Gil Elvgren
    Utagawa Hiroshige

    There aren’t many artists that I hate, but I can’t stand Thomas Kinkade or Ed Hardy. But I think that’s more a matter of their fans than their art, but I hear that Kinkade is a real asshole.

  • I had to comment again after seeing the other painting finally. Holy cow! If the first picture is representative of your aunt’s style, I’d say that it’s pretty unlikely that the other side is her unless she went through phases like Picasso’s and just felt the urge to cut loose. I love the ambiguity and rawness of it. The brushstrokes are broad and bold. That’s definitely a conversation starter.

    I think “matte” was the word you were looking for, but I’m not sure. Was it a cardboard sort of sleeve around the painting to allow it to sit centered in the frame?

  • On the wall to my left are two pieces of art that hung on my parents wall. I was miffed when my brother claimed them before I could when my dad moved and said he wasn’t taking them with him. Ahha, but my brother wanted the patio furniture that I got – so awhile ago, we traded. I have no idea where they are from, who did them, or what their story is. I suppose I will have to ask my dad and see. One is of Victorian dressed centaurs.. except that instead of just a horse, one is a bird and another a duck. Really hard to explain, perhaps I should take photos. The other is a spaceship crash landing in an alien landscape with a creature looking at it.

    On another wall, hanging above my bed, is a piece I really should get framed. It’s an artist’s proof. The content is a touch risque but depicts a man and a woman on a bed nude – but if you examine the drawing closing, throughout it, there are more images of men and woman like an adult version of find the hidden objects.

    There is a photo-canvas of me when I was 5 taken by my great uncle who is a photographer and artist himself (renowned) that hangs next to a poster that says ‘Imagination Celebration’ with various art on it (something my school did and that poster was the 3rd place reward for making a spaceship). Wall o’swords and axes. A finger-painting done by my son who passed away. Just outside my bedroom door is some of my art and a watercolor that my art teacher did of me when I modeled in his college art class in my druid outfit. Downstairs, some of my stained glass work and silk paintings. Most of my artwork though is sitting in the closet in need of framing or matting before it gets hung up.

    Most of my favorite artists are in the family. My brother’s photography is always inspirational. Seriously, go look at it. His portraits are wonderful, but click through to check out some of his other pieces like Bridge to…, Tiny Hand and others. http://kilted-saru.deviantart.com/ (and makes sure you browse the whole gallery, not just the featured selection). My stuff is over here at http://tyyrslady.deviantart.com/. I have found a love for fractal art recently.

    Aside from a wonderfully creative family, I cannot say that I have any artists I favor over others. I find all artwork inspirational. The only art I am not fond of is comic and anime, but I recognize it as art – it’s just not my style.

  • I’ve worked many a lame framing job, so here’s the scoop:

    – Watercolors are traditionally matted, oils are not.

    – Watercolors traditionally get glass, oils do not.

    Despite what best common sense would tell you, ALWAYS go for multiple mats. When getting framed, you are buying something that you’ll live with for decades. It’s worth the investment. Find a good local framer with lots of framed examples on the walls as evidence of their skills, avoid the crafts stores. A good framer makes the painting look better; like illustrating a book, a good frame can save a bad painting, but a bad frame can’t save a good painting.

    Also, as a watercolorist, watercolors (especially yellows and reddish tones including the browns) fade fastest. You have a good 10 years out of any reddish/yellow tone. Watercolors are not colorfast like oils or acrylics. As such, you will want a treated glass for your frame job. You’ll feel like you’re getting upsold A LOT, and the framer will do their best car salesman routine, but you WANT that. It’s important for watercolors. It’s not so much for photographs or prints.

  • First off, I want to thank you for editing out the offensive terminology. I’ve seen people get really ugly when called out on this sort of thing, so it’s good to know that you’re big enough to admit your mistake and learn from it rather than getting automatically defensive. Makes me feel good about following your blog :)

    Now on to the topic at hand! This is the first place in a long time that I’ve actually put things up on the walls, mostly because the last few places felt (and were) highly temporary. What I have now is highly eclectic, from pin-ups to photographs of clocks, to signed pictures of Brent Spiner, and includes a Jolly Roger hanging over one of the windows. Still, I’m not sure how much direct inspiration I get from these things. They’re more of an ambiance thing for me.

    On the other hand, I’m both a writer and an artist, so visual and written art is something of a two way street for me. Sometimes I’ll draw something that turns into a character in a story, and sometimes I write something that becomes an illustration. Sometimes I choose a books because of the author, and sometimes for the cover artist (though Charles Vess did lead me astray that one time… damn you Mr. Vess, usually I can count on your good taste!) Given this, it’s probably not very surprising that I get into the comics scene a fair bit, and have bookmarks folder of webcomics about as long as your forearm. I guess what I’m saying here is I absorb pretty much everything I see, and churn it over in the alchemy of my mind until I come up with something to put out.

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